This Season Belongs To The Haters

On my sixth cup of coffee listening to “Here’s That Rainey Day” by Sammy Davis Jr. and Laurindo Almeida. The loses continue to pile up as the injures resist to subside. The resilient bunch I’ve grown to adore have been flattened. Our top-four guys logging a mere 28 minutes of time together. The ever revolving door of cast members causing an already top heavy roster to go into free fall.

Could it be the departure of the often injured Gordon Hayward had more of an impact than I’m willing to admit? If you ask me the way this season is progression the Celtics could have kept him in place and he’d certainly catch coronavirus after a hot start to the season, similar to last year when a Hayward renaissance came to abrupt end due to a broken hand thanks to a hard screen set by LaMarcus Aldridge.

The nerds will never admit it. The media idiots will never admit it. But no matter who Boston brought in the circumstances of this season was going to undo them before they even began. If everyone is playing under the plague you’ll have your benefactors and victims. The Sixers are certainly benefactors. Rarely having to play the opponents best players. The Celtics are the victims. Always missing a key bullet in the chamber.

I am outraged. Not to mention exhausted. What should the Celtics do with the $28 million trade exception? Should they let a season of Tatum and Brown go to waste? Quite possibly it’s already done that. Unless Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens have access to those vaccines Governor Andrew Cuomo is literally flushing down the toilet then nothing will change. The effects of this season will be felt for a generation even after Tatum’s career has been said and done.

The Nick Wright and Laker/LeBron cheerleaders will gloat that another year has come and passed and Boston has not won the championship. Tatum will be labeled overrated despite himself being open to the fact his lungs are still damaged as it hampers his stamina. Doesn’t matter. He’s a loser. The ghouls at ESPN, Bleacher Report, FS1 and TNT will dance on his grave. If only the Celtics franchise players could avoid traumatic fates they would have won more than one title since Larry Bird booted the Houston Rockets in ‘86. 

Len Bias. Reggie Lewis. Gordon Hayward. And now Jayson Tatum. Life isn’t fair. 

The narrative will be a cash-strapped Ainge should have worked some magic and landed a star to compliment Jaylen and Jayson. The Myles Turner/Gordon Hayward negotiations will go down as misappropriated criticism of Ainge as people will happily omit the fact regardless if the two parties came to an agreement the moratorium period still left Hayward as a free agent. Michael Jordan is still calling and offering him more money than the Pacers could have given.

I am no fan of Brad Stevens. I find his choice of rotations and passive manner rather vexing. However, the man isn’t operating with a full deck this season. A closer than it should have been contest vs Detroit last week ended in defeat when the already shorthanded Celtics missing Kemba and Smart couldn’t even keep Semi Ojeleye in the final period thanks to a leg injury.  

Meanwhile Grant Williams is running at least one fast brea for us a game. What are we doing here? This isn’t fair. The utter Hell that is the real world has infected our fairytale that is professional sports. 

For all intents and purposes the Celtics this season are done. It brings me no joy to say this. Only tears. I need my escapism. I want it. A las, I will not receive what I desperately desire. 

The blowhards will bust at our downfall. For it is their world we’re living in. 

The Celtics winning anything at this point is what I’d consider a political statement. One against the cold nature posters search for clout. A Celtics win is a victory for hope. A strike against the evil NBA front office shuttling players into Covid hot-spots around the country for escrow. A victory over the bourgeoisie NBAPA designed only so players like Chris Paul can get himself the supermax while being cavalier in their indifference towards their teammates catching a life threatening illness. 

Adam Silver is evil. All sports is evil. Everyone who covers it for a living is evil. Cold. Lacking empathy. Wannabe Ben Shapiros. (I know he calls himself a Celtics fan. That man has never watched a game in his life.)

They dance on our graves every day on social media and on our TV screens. How I loathe  them. 

What Have We Learned?

Kemba from a long time ago. But I just like the Yankees cap

Remember when I said the Celtics have weathered the storm after an 8-3 start and looked forward to Kemba Walker’s return? Could we go back to that time. When the sky was the limit. As opposed to now when it’s falling. 

Granted it’s falling for reasons out of the teams control. Injuries, coronavirus and a horrible schedule filled with back to backs to maximize profits and get the NBA back on the normal full 82-game October to April timeline. Yes, every team has dealt with these same issues but somebody had to benefit from the chaos. (Cc: Lakers, Sixers, Utah)

From the cream of the crop the Celtics have fallen to the middle of the pack losing 11 of their last seventeen games. Is that bad? Yes. Oh, God yes! Is there context? Certainly. Kemba, Jaylen and Jayson haven’t played much at all together. The glue to the whole foundation, Marcus Smart, tore his calf vs Los Angeles weeks ago. Players have shuffled in and out of lineups and it doesn’t help that Walker cannot play on back to backs and the schedule is filled with those.

On the bright side, the role players we’ve complained about in the past have bared fruit. Semi Ojeleye this season is almost a complete different player in every sense of the word from last season. He is no longer a liability on the offensive end and can hold his own. Shooting a nice 37% from three on 3.3 attempts. Grant Williams rebounded from a sluggish start clearly needing reps to get his groove back. Since the start of February Grant’s short 41% from deep on 2.7 attempts. If the Celtics can get healthy they’ll likely find themselves in round three with a more experienced bench and that is the difference between being conference runner-ups and NBA Finalist. 

While the loses piled up pundits pointed to the acquisitions of Tristan Thompson and Jeff Teague as the reasons for the teams follies. While Teague is horrendous to the point I cannot keep up the irony driven facade, I do not understand the anger towards Thompson. Last season Daniel Theis served as Boston’s lone reliable big. The alternative being Enes Kanter. Robert Williams spent much of 2019-20 injured and didn’t show up until the postseason. He did show flashes, but a guard like Goran Dragic running a pick-and-roll cooked the spry young center like nothing.

People complain Thompson doesn’t fit and Serge Ibaka should have been on Danny’s radar instead. Except Ibaka likely did not want to come here. Having spent years in Toronto Ibaka likely wanted to head somewhere warm. That’s free agency in basketball for you. If you’re not a big market you can get fucked. 

Thompson perhaps is too traditional for the Celtics system. Watching him grab a rebound only to pogo stick it up can grow tiresome. For once I’d like to see him kick it out. Instead of pushing off with his elbow and tossing a miserable hook shot.

That being said, he is still pretty good and while a step below Clint Capela, Tristan can still rebound and set screens. In his last nine-games Thompson’s shot 59% from the field and simply played better than when he began the season. If the Celtics crater it won’t be because of a guy they signed to play backup center.

Lastly, there is the matter of how is Kemba fairing since his return. He’s been rather sluggish to start so naturally we all declared him finished and the Celtics must Trade him. I mean, this is your max guy and he can’t score! What in the… what’s that? You’re telling me in the last four games he’s played the Celtics have won 3 of them and has averaged 22 points on 48 percent shooting? 

And who would have thunk it, The Jays play great when they aren’t the sole sources for points and the offense isn’t so suffocating. But by all means, crown the Sixers. 

So what have we learned? That this is a marathon and not a sprint. There are still plenty of bad times ahead of us but we also have seen this team shown signs that they are far better than this and deserve the “wait and see” treatment. 

Now, does this mean Ainge should use that $28.5 million TPE nobody will shut up about? Are you kidding? Of course not. There’s no guarantee our players will avoid catching coronavirus. Tatum recently said he still cannot breathe properly and gets fatigued faster than before. This’ll hurt to say but we have to let this season go. We don’t know if we’re playing with a full deck. No one player will fix all of our complex woes.

That TPE expires in November by the way. So the Celtics could hold on to it until the off-season when, hopefully, this mess is all over and the world returns to some form of normalcy. 

What-If The Patriots Won Super Bowl XXXI?

We Had Curtis Martin. Then Lost Him In Free Agency. Doesn’t That Make You Mad?

The confetti flew down the Louisiana Superdome, the painter on AstroTurf field plastered with green and white pieces of shredded up paper. Bret Farve and the tight ship ran Green Bay Packers achieved football immortality while the bonkers New England Patriots walked into uncertainty. Their head coach, their guarding spirit and protector Bill Parcells did not mince words about his displeasure working for owner Robert Kraft. 

It’s been talked to death that Kraft did not let Parcells “buy the grocers” while people don’t know much about the situation beyond him not wanting to draft Terry Glenn. A talented wide receiver “Big Tuna” casually derided by referring to him as “She.” 

Parcells original plan for the 1996 draft was to select defensive back Tony Brackens with the seventh pick and receiver Mushin Muhammad 36th. Instead the Patriots got Glenn and strong safety Lawyer Milloy.

Glenn had four seasons catching passes for over a thousand yards and made the Patriots All-Decade Team for the 1990s. Milloy made four Pro Bowls and of course was a gigantic reason they won the Super Bowl on 2001. 

The year before despite a strong rushing game and featuring the pre-cursor to Gronkowski in Ben Coates, and Shawn Jefferson the Patriots couldn’t score in the red zone. Bledsoe ranked in the bottom tier of QBs in completion percentage in the red zone (34.65) and touchdowns (8). All timers Stan Humphries and Gus Freotte were superior than the QB taken no. 1 overall.

The implementation of Glenn opened up avenues for the stagnant offense. Bledsoe went from one of the worse QBs in the red zone to one of the best. His mark of 20 touchdowns only paled to Farve’s 24. His 54 completion percentage was a gigantic step forward. 

Glenn’s 4.29 speed and huge hands no doubt played a role in alternating the complexion of the offense. Kraft picked some mighty fine groceries even if Parcells thought otherwise. 

Of course, Parcells grips about not bolstering the defense is understandable. The 1995 season was mired by ineptitude on both sides of the ball. Defensively the Patriots gave up 360.3 yards a game, a mark worthy of bottom of the league status. Bill Belichick was brought aboard after the Cleveland Browns franchise moved to Baltimore and did not retain him as head coach to fix these holes.

In a year’s span the Patriots defense improved from allowing 23.6 points a game to 19.6 winning one more game to cultivate a record of 11-5. A big reason for this was Belichick scrapping the 3-4 defensive scheme which one him two championships while serving as the defensive coordinator for Parcell’s Giants. The 4-3 alignment was to compliment third-year linebacker Willie McGinest by moving him up to defensive end. Linebacker Ted Johnson succeeded team caption Vincent Brown when he had to undergo double knee surgery. The second year player stepped up in a major way.

Regardless of the behind the scenes dysfunction ultimately made public by a scorned coach plotting his departure, the Patriots made it to the Super Bowl. By no means a small accomplishment. Drew Bledsoe was a lot Jimmy Garoppolo. A high volume passer prone to throwing interceptions mixed with beautiful bombs to the end zone. If you’re asking him to bail you out you have the wrong quarterback. Saddle him with a fantastic running game and you’re on to something.

Enter Curtis Martin. The New York Jet great cut his teeth as a Patriot. In his first two seasons the Pittsburgh product rushed for 2,639 yards and 28 touchdowns. Making two All-Pro teams and utterly dominated the elite rushing defense of the Steelers in the playoffs scoring 3 touchdowns and 166 yards.  

Entering Super Bowl XXXI the league’s second best offense were fourteen point underdogs to the leagues best defense. 

The contest opened up in style. Farve got the Patriots on the canvas early with a 54-yard bomb to Andre Rison in the Packers second offensive snap. The ensuing Patriots drive ended abruptly when Packers defensive back Doug Evans intercepted a Bledsoe pass. But the Patriots D stood firm (PHRASING) and held the Pack to a field goal. 10-0 and the fans barley had a chance to get drunk. 

Perhaps the outside noise was too much?

But wait. The Patriots did no go quietly into the night. Back-to-back touchdown drives led by the shaky Bledsoe. Catches by fullback Keith Byers and tight end Coates roared the Patriots into the lead 14-10. In the previous 30 Super Bowls no team scored 14 points in the opening quarter and loss the game. Surely fate would not be cruel in making the once lowly Patriots be the first sacrificial lamb?

Well shit. The mad bomber known as Farve connected on an 81-yard bomb to Antonio Freeman, and the next Packers drive Chris Jackie hit his second field goal of the night. Pack back in the lead. But only by six. With little under eight-minutes remaining in the half the Patriots appeared to be driving down to at least get three points before the first half expires. 

Bledsoe hit Coates for 19-yards to get the Patriots to the 44-yard line. So far, Bledsoe has done himself fair. 10-19, 150 yards and 2 touchdowns. What follows is his utter implosion. A long pass intended for Jefferson landed in the arms of Packers d-back Mike Prior. Bledsoe would finish the game not throwing another touchdown, and throwing 4 interceptions, getting sacked 5 times. 

The Packers went down and scored again. Now up 13 as the gun sounded signifying the end of first half play. Not only did New England squander an opportunity to retake control, they dug themselves a bigger hole. 

Ah, but the Football Gods would have one last tease for the Patriots. Taking advantage of excellent field position, the Patriots began their drive at their own 47-yard line. It took a meager seven plays to drive the rest of the way culminating in an 18-yard rush by the aforementioned Martin. Holy shit! They aren’t dead. Reggie White is gasping for air on the sidelines. The Packers offense won’t score again on us. The Patriots are going to win…

Wait… why is Adam Vinatieri kicking it to Desmond Howard. No. Wait! Don’t do that. 

Welp. He scored. We lost. We’re done for. Ever stopped and pondered if the Packers retained their returning ace Farve would have won that Super Bowl vs Denver the following year?

Anyways, New England lost. Closing the door on the four seasons of the Parcell’s era where he brought the team back to respectability after a dismissal period between 1987 and ‘92.

Lost in the defeat was the fact the defense cleaned up Bledsoe’s messes. If he could have thrown just one fewer interception and if future hero Vinatieri did not kick it to Howard the Patriots probably win that contest 27-21 with the former being the MVP. 

Could you imagine Super Bowl champion and MVP Drew Bledsoe? It’s more unbelievable than a Donald Trump presidency. That’s not a joke. In hindsight Bledsoe wasn’t a hard working QB despite his skills. 

But this article is about what-if the improbable happened? What if the Patriots pulled off a similar feat of that the 1977 New York Yankees? What-if Foxboro Was Burning?

For starters, it’s likely Kraft hires Belichick as Parcell’s replacement from the jump as opposed to taking that detour with Pete Carroll. 

I don’t know how Belichick drafts or molds the roster. But the Carroll and Bobby Grier era was defined by a mismanagement of the salary cap sending the Patriots to cap jail. Coates and center Bruce Armstrong saw the chopping block the first year Belichick assumed general manager duties in 2000. Coates had a cap hit of $3.46 million entering 2000 and his 1999 campaign was mired by injures and a sharp decline in productivity. Armstrong had been a Patriot since 1987 and while also at the end of his rope Belichick did try to keep him aboard as a veteran presence. Asking him to shave off $1.5 million off his $3.5 figure. Armstrong refused and his career was called. 

The money saved in these cost cutting measures allowed the Patriots to retain Milloy on what was the highest paid contract for a safety. Seven-years, $35 million. 

Carroll and Grier were guilty of getting complacent and being antipodal to hard-liners like Parcells. You get what you’re worth and not a penny more. It sucks being a curmudgeon is what it takes to win championships in football, but it is what it is. The players assumed control and ran roughshod over management. In a short span of time the overachieving Patriots of 1996 became underachievers in 1997 and 1998 until falling back into obscurity in 1999. 

If the Patriots changed Super Bowl’s 31 L into a W the dynasty probably dates back five-years sooner than it does in our timeline. Maybe they make it to an extra Super Bowl in the Bledsoe era? Does the additional success make Belichick reconsider scrapping Bledsoe for Brady? While Bledsoe did sign a 10-year contract prior to the 2001 season the move translates to more of a Kraft decision than a Belichick one. He never seemed that eager to give the reigns back to the quarterback or more pedigree than the 199th overall pick.

Calm Down, Life Is Meaningless After All

Win. Lose. Who Cares? Nick Wright Still Gets His Damn Check In The Mail

Seventeen games in and already I am emotionally exhausted. The wins are nice, the loses are merely a nuisance. Running the gauntlet beginning when we waited for Kemba to return, then Jayson Tatum caught coronavirus and the Celtics fell from first place to middle of the pact after losing four of their last six games. 

Now the Philadelphia 76ers are the toast of the town. Suddenly it doesn’t matter your number one pick can’t rise above his rookie averages. The Lakers are lauded for their ability to win on the road despite arenas not having any fans in the building. The discourse is toxic and as always downright idiotic.

Years of every defeat being the end of the world and our short term memories. Maybe these loses are indicative of the bigger flaws that’ll ultimately hold this team back. Or maybe a loss is simply a loss. I don’t know and to be honest fans shouldn’t care. What is in it for you to freak out constantly? You’re never going to be in a position of power to make the decisions you meticulously analyze. Nor are you going to get the satisfaction of your least favorite pundits eating crow if the day you’ve spent years dreaming of finally happens.

No sir. We are living the life of futility. Where are moods hinge on whether strangers wearing our uniforms perform adequately enough to secure a victory in a very long season where seeding is almost pointless given the aforementioned fact fans are not permitted into the arenas due to a plague currently ravaging the United States in horrific ways thanks to the failures of free market capitalism. 

If you ask me Brad Stevens should simply limit Tristan Thompson’s minutes time below fifteen, enhance Daniel Theis and Robert Williams’ roles on the team and we’ll all be better off for it. 

The Celtics Have Weathered The Storm

Life Is Easy When You Have Two MVP Candidates On Your Team

Heading into this season pessimism defined the mood of Celtics fans. Some of the reasons for it was understandable: the absence of Kemba Walker to begin the season and the critics poo-pooing Ainge’s drafting order Payton Pritchard, many believed the Celtics wouldn’t even be in the top-six in the eastern conference. 

Yes, really. People are this stupid. Personally, I feel it was a combination of pundits not watching basketball, taking their cues from Twitter and getting distracted by the new shiny objects as the league once again reshuffled its deck while the Celtics returned largely the same as the previous season. Their lone acquisition of consequence in free agency was Tristan Thompson. 

The departure of Gordon Hayward in rather abrupt fashion, pulling the rug out from not only the Celtics who hoped to trade the often injured star, but also their trad partner the Indiana Pacers. To put it bluntly, the Celtics not trading for Myles Turner because Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan is an impulsive maniac is why this team is destined to suck. 

While nobody in Boston adores the two big man lineup of Daniel Theis playing power forward while the embodiment of toxic masculinity Tristan Thompson mans the center position, as individuals they’ve done similarly to Turner in the aggregate. 

When Thompson is the lone big his net rating is a healthy plus-17.5 in the little over hundred minutes he’s logged in. When together Theis and Thompson share a putrid negative-19.4 net rating. Keeping current with this trend when Theis is the lone big his net rating an even zero. Which is kind of a big jump given how he’s played the majority of the season out of position. 

The reasoning behind the double big lineups is solely so Stevens can fit all his productive players in their respective roles and maximize the time they’ll see the floor. The logic is sound, then you constantly see teams rain threes over our bigs and dig us into early holes. 

For years Boston fans vexed at the constant issues of not having enough bigs. Now they have three thanks to the emergence of Robert Williams and his unlikely alley-op partner in crime Payton “The Piss Man” Pritchard. 

The once maligned first round pick has acted as a savior for the Celtics. Yes, I understand this team fields two MVP candidates but the donut hole left by Kemba would have been felt if Pritchard wasn’t around. His shooting, his creation for himself and others have been a needed breath of fresh air. Since Jeff Teague has not worked out as of yet, Pritchard has been the difference maker for the Celts being atop of the East. 

Another unexpected bright spot has been the emergence of Semi Ojeleye as a respectable three-and-D off the bench threat is… shocking. Just from the basic stats Ojeleye’s jump caused me to do a double take. Last season he hit only rim, compiling 40/37/87 splits. This season, given a bigger role thanks to the departure of Hayward he’s excelled! 46/42/61. Now his free throw shooting has gone into the toilet, but the story is Semi is one of the reasons the Celtics didn’t beat the Heat last season and now he’s better. 

And lastly: Kemba Walker is back. Potentially tomorrow vs the New York Knicks. For all intents and purposes the Celtics have survived the storm. They are a deeper team than before and possess the tools necessary to better their roster. 

Yes, the Nets are insanely talented and scary, but I implore fans to just be happy and enjoy the ride. Leave the pessimism and hysterics to me. 

Stop Deifying Nerds

Remember working yourself up when the Celtics traded Mattise Thybulle, fans?

Let’s get this out of the way: none of know jack shit about basketball. Not you, me or your favorite Twitter personality and podcaster. And to be perfectly frank: the general managers likely know less than you do, except they were born rich and with the proper connections to ascend the bureaucratic ladder. 

If you’re still reading I’d like to tell you that the NBA has become a dystopian league mired by faux-intellectualism. I can confidently there are only four front offices worth a damn in this sorry league. Toronto, Miami, Boston and Philadelphia. Every other team is run by egomaniac, entitled freaks. 

But if you plugged yourself into the inane and constant chatter of the media they’ll sniff the thrones of David Griffin and Sam Presti for compiling a comical amount of first round picks after trading away their star player. “It’s just like Ainge’s haul for Pierce and Garnett!” they say. Ignoring the fact the Celtics were given lottery picks from Brooklyn people suspected would amount as such at the time the deal was consummated.  

For Jrue Holiday the New Orleans Pelicans traded the All-Star point guard to Milwaukee for five first round picks believing the Bucks franchise star Giannis Antetokounmpo was abandoning ship after this season. Giannis signed a five-year extension three weeks later. With an over abundance of picks the Pelicans have what I consider a war chest that is all quantity and no quality. Meanwhile they turned their noses up at a simple Gordon Hayward and a first. 

Picks late in the first round are more important for the team dealing them than the one that is receiving them. Look at the Celtics. Kemba is out with an injury, Danny Ainge signs 32-year old Jeff Teague and drafts a guard out of Oregon named Payton Pritchard to fill the void. Teague has not panned out. But the Celtics stand a top of the conference due in no small part because the 26th pick has bared fruit from the jump. Obviously Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are reasons one and two for the hot start, but Payton’s role cannot be minimized.

What would Pritchard have meant if the team he landed on ultimately sucked? Part of why he’s good is the talent around him is good. 

But the Pelicans aren’t compiling these draft picks because they have faith in their scouting. They’re doing this for the same reason Sam Hinkie held on to all those picks during his time in Philadelphia: it’s to be the first in line when a disgruntled star hits the market. 

For the life of me I don’t know why people take the wrong lessons from how the Raptors and Lakers molded their championship teams. For Toronto they benefited from the fact San Antonio undersold and didn’t want to tank. Picks were a non-factor for them. For Los Angeles it was the three Ls: location, location, location. 

People point to the Celtics stash, but those were lottery choices. It was Ainge profiting off of teams unaware of various factors the Celtics brass were. Now not every team is going to get four lottery picks for their superstar, but when when I read hypothetical trades centering around Washington Wizards superstar Bradley Beal I usually see a fuck ton of picks involved. “With all those picks the Wizards can jump start the rebuild and maybe draft a player just as good as Beal!”

Or maybe they should just keep Beal and figure it out? Maybe the Pelicans should have just kept Anthony Davis and not give in to the Lakers bullying efforts? Maybe the Spurs shouldn’t have been so spiteful towards Kawhi and let calmer heads prevail? Maybe we should shop overvaluing first round picks if they are in the late twenties and the team getting them is heading towards a long and arduous rebuild?

Life is a delicate balance between Occum’s Razor and the timely phrase “It’s complicated”, in short context matters and picks lose all their appeal when a name is attached to them for a reason. Treating the “treadmill of mediocrity” like death sometimes is the fastest way to landing on one. 

The Frustrating, Stunningly Middling 2020 Patriots

It Isn’t A Nightmare, But It Ain’t A Fairytale Either

Nick Folk’s kick sails through the uprights and the Patriots go from at deaths doorstep to keeping their slimmer than a rail playoff chances alive. It was hardly pretty. In fact it was rather atrocious football, I have yet to understand how we avoided the loss. The simplest answers are the Patriots defense performed a spectacular defensive stand to end the first half, Gilmore had DeAndre Hopkins in the torture chamber, and the special teams gave the stagnant Patriots offense the jolts necessary to score some points. 

For now, the beat still goes on heading to Los Angeles to take on the 3-7 Chargers. Don’t let their record fool you. The only problem this team has is their late-game execution, having loss two contests by one play. I have no idea what’ll happen. Will Cam crack 300 passing yards or will he pick up right where he left off his abominable vs Arizona? No, clue. Frankly, neither scenario guarantees a win or loss with this Patriots team. Everything is so off kilter I’m still more miffed the NFL screwed the patriots back in October when they had their outbreak of the Coronavirus. 

Just about all that could have gone wrong has gone wrong for New England this season. An awful lot of it out of their control. Starting with the drop outs relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. Stars Patrick Chung and Dont’a Hightower opting to not put their health and their families at risk playing in this horrendous NFL season. This left the Patriots defense missing an extra punch it’s grown accustomed to having. 

When the season began, the Patriots raced out to a 2-1 start and Sony Michel had his best career game vs Las Vegas. Then he went to a strip club and tore his quad. He recently re-entered action vs Arizona but did not receive a handoff despite the team missing Rex Burkhead due to an ACL tear. A seemingly rejuvenated Newton caught the virus and his games were loss due to his body strength not being what it was prior to his diagnosis. Costly loses to Seattle, Denver, Buffalo which came down to one or two plays defined the season for New England. If Cam gets one more yard vs Seattle, if the NFL did not give the Broncos an extra week of down time so Drew Lock could heal from his injuries, and if Cam didn’t fumble during the what would could have been the game-winning drive, they aren’t 5-6 teetering between the seventh seed and elimination. 

The offense was built for Tom Brady, or Jarrett Stidham, as Newton was an addition very late in the off-season. Despite Belichick’s efforts to tailor make the offense solely around Newton’s strengths, the patented short throws Brady made a living off of are something Newton is unable to continue. James White comes out the biggest loser from this experiment. 

No matter what the Patriots do well, the limited abilities of Newton handicap what should be an advantage. Damian Harris is a revaluation and if Tommy was still here, would have opened up the offense so much. But since Cam fails to make those throws to first, accuracy isn’t his calling and he is unable to make the proper adjustments at the line opposing defenses can just throw blitz attack after blitz attack. 

Outside of N’Keal Harry, the wide receiving core is pretty decent. Damiere Byrd and Jakobi Meyers have become good at creating separation and their hands are sure enough. Meyers has stepped up big since Julian Edelman went down early in the season. 

From a top-10 offense in 2019, the Patriots have fallen to a bottom tier squad because the throws Brady used to make in his sleep, Cam can’t seemingly on his best day. 

What lies ahead is uncertain. Do the Patriots give Cam another chance and try to make the offense more friendly to the long game? Do they let Newton hit the open market and give the reigns to Stiddy or look for another quarterback who’ll surely be another find in the bargain bin? 

Nobody knows. The future is uncertain. We are teased with this year with the possibility of making the playoffs providing a needed distraction from all the unanswered questions. 

An Optimistic View On The Celtics From A Pessimist

And all of a sudden, basketball is less than a month from returning. With looming uncertainties and dangers as we’re still in the peak of this pandemic (despite nearing our ninth month), NBA teams will resume running their respective arenas presumably with minimal fan attendance at most; because that strategy has done wonders for the NFL. 

Regardless of my feelings towards the situation looks like we’re in for another action packed, utterly annoying NBA season filled with needless narrative spewing to make us forget the entire world around us is melting.

“Oh, boy looks like my team is doing well to start. Time to check the injury report to see if any of them got sick.” is sure to be a recurring ritual for us. 

But, I digress. Let us talk basketball. Enough about the threatening, looming specter of this deadly virus of which there is still no cure for and we are at the mercy of pharmaceutical industries who’ll choose profits over saving humanity. Where’s Jonas Salk where you need him?

The deal here is simple: the Celtics of 2019-20 fame have returned, excluding the often absent Gordon Hayward. Closing the book on his infamous three year stint filled with misfortune. A consequence in turning over this new leaf is the forward position beyond the Jays appear thin. As second year prospect Romeo Langford showed promise in his rookie campaign, his wrist injury persists and will likely cost him the beginning of the season. Leaving backup duties to rookie Aaron Nesmith and (shudders) Semi Ojeleye. 

Perhaps Nesmith will be better than advertised. Like Langford, he was also supposed to selected higher than fourteenth but his 2019-20 season was cut short to just fourteen games due to injury. He assured the media his foot was now at “100%” and doesn’t anticipate missing any time. 

In forty-six games played for Vanderbilt Nesmith shot the ball pretty well from deep. 41 percent off of 6.3 attempts per game. He is a very bouncy, well tuned player on offense and I am optimistic he’ll pleasantly surprise us if given a proper training camp to get acclimated to the pros. 

Meanwhile in the backcourt, the departure of Brad Wanamaker left a gapping hole on the bench at seemingly the worst time. Kemba Walker is banged up, his knee has constantly hampered his explosiveness and it’s unknown whether he needs surgery or just more rest than three-months. Many have sounded the alarm calling his contract an albatross. Let me be the first to tell you there are many people arguing in bad faith because sports brings out the worst in us. The arrogance to assume we can see how someone will perform in seasons beyond this one is stunning since they’ve been wrong about Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry in the past. 

But will Kemba look lime Kemba THIS season? Probably not. The template for managing this issue is doing what the Cavaliers did in 2016 when Kyrie fractured his kneecap. Sit him for thirty-games, deal with the consequences of not having him for more than half of the shortened season and hope Jeff Teague and Payton Pritchard can hold down the fort. Or maybe Tremont Waters is ready to explode on the scene? 

People panned the Teague signing at the time, but he still has tread left on the tires. He’s an underrated passer and I think he’ll be leaps and bounds better than Wanamaker was. Teague doesn’t have tunnel vision like Wanamaker and is less erratic. Since the C’s hopefully won’t be without one of the Jays on the court at nearly all times Teague will always have options when out there. 

There is not a doubt in my mind when Kemba does return Twitter will light up and there will be op-eds wondering why he doesn’t have the same explosiveness as before and his numbers aren’t as impressive. But, like Kyrie and the Cavaliers, the Celtics need to take this route to ensure the best return on the backend. 

Lastly, there is the adding of Tristan Thompson to the center rotation. While it’s debatable whether Thompson starts over Theis, as continuity is not something to disregard – especially under these circumstances. It is worth noting when Cleveland did trade for center Andre Drummond and relegated Thompson to the bench his numbers dipped significantly, likely hampering his value on the market as the Celtics were able to secure him for the full mid-level exception ($9.3 million) after Hayward’s departure upped the tool from $6.3 million. 

While Theis three-point shot abandoned him in the playoffs, he hit them at a steady enough clip in the regular season to keep defenses honest when he had the ball beyond the  arc. Thompson last year attempted only 23 deep balls, converting in just nine. Perhaps Brad Stevens ups the attempts to fifty or seventy-five in an attempt to add the feature to Thompson’s game, like he did with Aron Baynes. 

Thompson is a skilled dunker, a cutter to the basket and is a fantastic insurance policy for when Theis gets himself into foul trouble as previously we had no backup big we could trust in crunch time. 

The bench went from underwhelming and inexperienced to a balance attack with the signings of Teague and Thompson. On paper, if you simply forget Hayward was on the team, this team is better than what they were the previous year. Only difference is the obstacles are larger. But since home court advantage is minimized, and perhaps non-existent if the NBA decides to return to Orlando and play games in the bubble for the postseason, the Celtics should only worry about securing a top-3 seed and avoiding a dreadful matchup against the conference favorites in the second round. 

Like clockwork we are cold on the Celtics because every other team reloaded with flashier names. Perhaps this won’t be our year, but we’re foolish to believe a team with the Jays in their prime, a good coach in Stevens and a solid bench isn’t going to be a serious threat. 

Since this was largely an optimistic column I anticipate disaster to strike and the Celtics to prove themselves as not up to snuff. Ugh. What have I done!

Too Many Things Are Happening

Robyn Hayward is here solely as an inside joke I’ll probably forget

In five-hours the Celtics fan base went through the gantlet of emotions starting when the news hit Gordon Hayward was signing with the Charlotte Hornets of all teams, leading to mass hysteria from both the fans losing and receiving him. 

I wanted Hayward to return, believing his reputation as injury prone similar to how Danilo Gallinari turned his career around. In the three campaigns Hayward undertook since signing with Boston he’s disappointed in so many ways. In his debut he suffered an injury we’re all well aware of. The following year he was a shell of his former self trapped on a team prone to shooting themselves in the foot. His third and final season began promising enough, until an unfortunate LaMarcus Aldridge screen broke his hand and sidelined him again. Hayward would never regain his stride until August inside the famed bubble in Orlando. Hayward was happy, healthy, and playing at his highest level since his Utah days. 

Then he got hurt – again. 

Bless his heart, he tried to make a comeback for the Heat series (missing the birth of his son in the process) but it wasn’t enough as he was a noticeable step behind the competition. The silver lining leaving the 4-2 series defeat was Hayward helped swing the two Celtics wins and if he was available to play sooner, or never got hurt to begin with, the Celtics probably would have won.

“What-ifs” dominate Hayward’s tenure in Boston and will be his legacy. If the Celtics are unable to win a championship in the era of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown we can point to him as the main reason. It does not help matters Hayward skipped town for nothing. In his defense, the player owes the franchise nothing. His case is special because as a player seemingly on the ascent at the time of his signing, and no history of injuries predating October, 2017, Hayward fell victim to the most unlikeliest scenarios on every occasion bucking historical trends. He really took the “I owe the team” nothing moniker to the breaking point. 

Hayward never played one relevant game. Was never healthy for more than a month and the allure of him was always in the hypothetical. How we treat Romeo Langford is  how we viewed Hayward since his injury. 

If everything went to plan and Hayward would have become an All-NBAer and lead the Celtics to the finals multiple times and at least one championship. Forget the dysfunction with Kyrie Irving. They would have overcome all of that because of him. The Jays would basically be rich men versions of Pascal Siakam. Guys being prepped to lead the next generation, used as aces up the sleeve for a team that doesn’t need a bunch of guys still on their rookie contracts to carry the load. 

Instead, what we got was the comically bad outcome. 

To Danny Ainge’s credit, he didn’t cry in a public restroom at the news of Hayward’s departure (like I did). News hit soon after of Klutch client Tristan Thompson signing in Boston for the full $9,300,000 mid-level exception for two-seasons; followed-up with Jeff Teague signing for one year, presumably at the minimum rounding out the Celtics inexperience and worrisome bench unit. 

Not for a lack of trying, Brad Wanamaker could not instill confidence in fans when it was his turn to drive the car when Kemba Walker needed to take a powder. While Teague’s best days are behind him he is a very underrated passer and since this offense runs primarily through the Jays it’ll play perfectly to his strengths. 

As for Thompson, he’s fantastic insurance for Daniel Theis when he inevitably gets into foul trouble. Game one vs Miami is burned in my mind. Once Theis fouled out the game was over for us. Nobody could handle Bam on that roster besides him. Having Thompson is a massive boost. 

So the Celtics go from handwringing about being capped out, having to pay three forwards (Tatum, Hayward, Brown), an undersized guard people obsess about being an albatross despite the evidence he is anything but (Walker), and another guard due for a bigger pay day down the road (Marcus Smart), and an underwhelming bench unit, the Celtics are more well rounded. 

If rookie Aaron Nesmith and sophomore Romeo Langford can be serviceable and not liabilities then Celtics are beyond golden and should be viewed at as favorites to come out of the conference. Especially with the question marks surrounding the health of Kevin Durant of Brooklyn, Goran Dragic of Miami, and the overall situation regarding Giannis’ free agency in Milwaukee.

The Celtics are the only team in the East with their house in order. Toronto potentially won’t be the same after Serge Ibaka didn’t re-sign;  Aron Baynes never was the most durable player. 

For now the Hayward saga is over. His shadow will loom for maybe a generation here in Boston and his effect on NBA history cannot be understated. 

Nothing Makes Any Sense

Let’s all be honest: Gordon Hayward did nothing these last three seasons and contributed little to the Celtics two trips to the eastern conference finals these past three years. Often injured, when it seems he is about to turn a corner another incident sidelined him for a prolonged period of time.
When healthy Hayward adds the fourth dimension to the Celtics offense. Is he overpaid? Yes. But we’re trying to make the best of a less than desirable situation. Danny Ainge paid for the All-Star Hayward. The A-1 man on a fifty-win squad Hayward. Instead we got Richard Jefferson. That’s what happens when you fracture your tibia and dislocate your leg. You’re likely never to return the same.

Still, like Jar Jar Binks to the Phantom Menace, Hayward remained the key to the Celtics title hopes. When going strong the Celtics looked extremely formidable despite their lackluster depth. I’ll die on the hill if he remained healthy, the way he was playing in the bubble portion of the season, the Celtics coast by Miami and defeat the top-heavy Lakers in the finals. A las, the script could not have been flipped. And as her usual, the misfortune of the Celtics helped their most hated rival. What else is new?

How the Hell Hayward going to turn down $34 million in the middle of a pandemic? I understand he isn’t happy watching his role deemphasized, but, again, you got hurt and opened the door to the Jays. You don’t really need the ball to be awesome anyway. There’s room on the floor for him. But he doesn’t see it like that.

Surely this article will become dated in the very near future. Just because he’s opted out doesn’t mean he’s gone gone. Perhaps he’ll survey the market, find very little interest and come back to Boston on a new deal.
Fuck if I know. Everything is so schizophrenic.